Managerial transition 'virtually seamless' says McGuigan

PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for May in football, Shane McGuigan of Derry, with his award at PwC offices in Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for May in football, Shane McGuigan of Derry, with his award at PwC offices in Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

SHANE McGuigan has insisted that the mid-Championship transition from Rory Gallagher to Ciaran Meenagh in the Derry hot-seat has been virtually seamless.

Gallagher stepped back from his role less than 48 hours before last month's Ulster final against Armagh, a game that the Oak Leafers went on to win to retain the Anglo Celt Cup.

They've since drawn with Monaghan and beaten Donegal to leave themselves in a strong position to qualify for an All-Ireland quarter-final place as Group 4 winners.

Ulster title winning manager Gallagher stepped down for personal reasons following allegations of domestic abuse by his estranged wife Nicola Gallagher.

Asked how much, if any, disruption there was in the lead up to the Ulster final, attacker McGuigan insisted very little.

"Honestly, there hasn't (been)," said McGuigan, the PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for May.

"You could speak to any of the team and they would say the same. But I'd say any inter-county player at the minute would tell you that there's not much training being done with the heavy schedule anyway.

"We only had a week between the games against Monaghan and Donegal. All the training has been done in the months of February, March and April. It's about trying to keep the boys fit and fresh, making sure that we don't pick up injuries. If you pick up an injury now your season could be over.

"So nothing much has changed since Ciaran stepped into his role, he knows our strengths as a team and the training schedule. The training has been very similar. No, we have always talked about it being player driven and it has just continued that way."

McGuigan said former Tyrone player Meenagh has taken the upgrade in his stride, something that was possible due to his familiarity with the group.

"Ciaran was in with us the year before Rory stepped in but the boys were keen on keeping Ciaran (at that stage) because we knew the type of man he was first and foremost," said McGuigan.

"He had a really good way about him on the training pitch. He's a brilliant trainer and the things that he sees in games, it really opened our eyes up about football at that time.

"Then Rory brought it on to another level and Ciaran's said himself that he learned off him so nothing's changed in how we train. Ciaran knows our strengths as a team and training is always built around that and for the last while they've just continued to build around that."

Despite the move from coach to manager, McGuigan said Meenagh hasn't dramatically altered his duties behind the scenes.

"It's much the same, he's just doing things his normal way," said the Slaughtneil man. "Like I said, nothing's changed from when he stepped in to where it is now. It's the exact same. Well, not the exact same, every training session is a bit different but nothing's changed in terms of our preparations or anything like that.

"Everything's pretty cool and everything's been the same with him. Ciaran is who he is and I don't think anyone or anything will change that. He's a brilliant manager and we're just lucky to have him."

In a separate interview with online journalists, McGuigan stated that the players weren't prepared to use Gallagher's exit as an excuse for failing to retain the Ulster title.

"The excuses were there - we lost our manager, if we needed an excuse to use," he said. "But we wanted to hold onto that Ulster crown."